The NFL's five best second-contract sleepers

How should the Vikings handle the QB position in 2018? (1:54)

Dianna Russini, Andrew Hawkins and Tedy Bruschi weigh in on Minnesota's options at quarterback next season. (1:54)

During the past few years, rising caps and carryovers from previous eras have mostly mitigated the problem of the NFL team that spends too much in free agency. Just ask how the Jaguars are feeling about springing for corner A.J. Bouye and end Calais Campbell, or how happy the Rams were with tackle Andrew Whitworth.

Teams are more apt than ever to get what they pay for, as long as they aren't wishcasting their tall, big-armed quarterback fantasies on mediocrity.

However, that only puts even more emphasis on evaluating the hidden gems that hit the market. A good free-agent signing on a cheap contract can put a team ahead of the curve just as well as hitting on a good quarterback prospect -- particularly if he is still young enough to be in his prime.

In building this list, I find myself looking more and more at injured players each year. Injuries are big factors for NFL front offices, but they also represent a buying opportunity for other teams. The fear of the unknown is a great place to find a bargain. As such, some of this list will bomb, while some of it will flourish. C'est la vie. Better to release a guy early and free up a roster spot than spend three years with an unplayable Chad Henne, talking up his intangibles.